Why study English? According to students at Kinmen's Vocational High School, there are a host of reasons.“English is an international language; it will be very helpful in my life.”said one junior. A senior added,“English is important to everyone. Also, it can help me find work, help me travel abroad, and help me make friends.”
As an ETA, I currently have the opportunity to travel, make friends, and connect with another community. I must agree with the students; some of my best memories from this past year have resulted from my attempts to put myself out there and speak Chinese with neighbors and co-workers.
This past year has been shaped by a give-and-take relationship between Chinese and English experiences. I try to speak Chinese in order to be able to connect more deeply with new friends. However, I also want to provide others with the opportunity to practice English with a native speaker. Since I spend my weeks teaching elementary school students, I wanted to experience working with older students as well. Thus, last semester, with the help of Fulbright Taiwan and the Vocational High School, I and two other ETAs began teaching a weekly English Club there. Our goal has been to help students practice English in an enjoyable, no-pressure setting.
My favorite session (and the students' favorite as well!) was, of course, about food! The ETAs presented a cookie recipe and introduced the necessary ingredients. Then, students had to divide into teams to figure out how to bake according to the given recipe. Both sets of cookies were delicious; there was not a clear winner, which resulted in a tie between teams. However, the students weren't as satisfied as the judges. After a communal gasp and spirited applause at the presentation of the cookies, the students' faces crumbled slightly at the first bite the cookies were“too sweet!”
One team stood out and perhaps won based on resourcefulness. The recipe required only egg whites, but one student took it upon herself to cook the leftover yolks into a delicious snack for everyone to enjoy (perhaps to wash down the sweetness)!
Other lessons from this past semester included“How to Buy Milk Tea”“High School in the U.S. vs. Taiwan”“Taiwanese and American Fashions”and an English scavenger hunt.
I sincerely hope that we have been able to enhance our students' English learning. What have I learned from the students? Most likely more than what we have taught them! I am inspired by our students' sense of initiative. This club was not required or forced upon any of the students. They show up each week because they have a clear goal to practice and improve their English. They remind me to identify and seek out opportunities and experiences that fit in with my own growth and goals.